Monday, December 21, 2009

When "Holding The Ropes" Means Pulling It

As a missions pastor, there is no story as singularly inspiring for me than the words of Andrew Fuller concerning his friend and fellow laborer William Carey:

We saw there was a gold mine in India, but it seemed almost as deep as the center of the earth. Who will venture to explore it? “I will go down,” said Mr. Carey to his brethren, “but remember that you must hold the ropes.” We solemnly engaged to do so; nor while we live, shall we desert him.

Certainly, as you read of Fuller and Carey, you see this promise included much encouragement, caring for details, and fundraising. I came across a bit of their correspondence yesterday that showed this also included some good, straightforward, constructive criticism. Fuller wrote to carey on Sept. 6, 1797,

…You desire us to keep to your spelling in what we print. We will endeavor to do so but you do not always spell alike. . . If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who can prepare for battle?–You must allow me again to remind you of your pronunciation. I never knew a person of so much knowledge as you profess of other languages, write English so bad . . . If your Bengal N.T. sh(ould) be thus pointed I sh(ould) tremble for its fate… ( in The Journal and Selected Letters of William Carey, xiii).

This was an example of good, blunt, critical interaction between Fuller and Carey. In the context of loving co-laboring, this no doubt helped Carey be more careful and more effective in his writing.

We live in a day when “holding the ropes” tends to mean only the positives like praying, sending money, giving big love offerings and making available stocked missions closets. Holding the ropes also includes staying in contact, providing feedback, constructive criticism, and maintaining lines of accountability. It is all a part of real “rope-holding” and we all need it.

The original article appeared here. Special thanks to Missions Mandate.

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